William K. Caffee was the son of Warden Caffee and Sarah Gill and was born in 1856 in Newark, Ohio. He came to Carthage with his mother when he was 11 years old after his father died. He attended high school at Shattuck Military Academy in Minnesota where he graduated with the highest honors in his class and excelled in athletics. He was on the school’s crew team and chosen as the Coxwain. By 1874 he was a Lt. Adjutant and secretary of the Commissioned Officer’s Club as well as the vice president of the baseball club and was proficient in Latin and was awarded the Rector’s medal. He married Anna Belle Wilkins of Bowling Green, KY in 1878 and they had three children, one of whom died in infancy.
Although he was quite young and fresh out of school he was a charter member of the famous old Carthage Light Guard and very active in the organization. His military schooling made him an asset to the Light Guard with his years of military training. He rose rapidly through the ranks, becoming sergeant in 1876, second lieutenant in 1878, captain in 1879, and was commissioned colonel of the Second Regiment, Missouri National Guard in 1892. He accompanied his regiment at the outbreak of the Spanish American War in 1898.
Later on he was a successful businessman helping organize the wholesale Caffee Drug Co. at Joplin, which controlled an extensive trade in the four state area. He was also interested in retail drug houses in Carthage and Sarcoxie. He was also involved with Central National Bank in Carthage and as President of the Carthage Library Board was instrumental in obtaining the funds from the Carnegie Foundation to build the new library building in 1902. He helped found the first golf course in Carthage located west of town on Co. Rd. 170.
Col. Caffee died 10 March 1923 at age 66, and was buried with full military honors in Park Cemetery. Shortly after his death the Chamber of Commerce wrote a glowing tribute to him touching on his service, and his inspiration to every young boy who wanted to be just like him.